Oral Histories

Interview of DongSuk Kim

Founder and director of the Korean Classical Music and Dance Company and UCLA faculty member in ethnomusicology.
Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Founder and director of the Korean Classical Music and Dance Company and UCLA faculty member in ethnomusicology.
Cline, Alex
Kim, DongSuk
Persons Present:
Kim and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Kim's home in Buena Park, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research. Cline has spent a considerable amount of his career as a jazz drummer/musician in Los Angeles.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview.
4.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Traditional Asian Arts in Southern California series focuses on both immigrants and second- or third-generation Asian Americans who have continued East Asian or Southeast Asian musical, dance, and performance traditions in Southern California. Some preserved their art form by adhering to the traditional forms of their disciplines, while others incorporated elements from Western arts and culture.
During the time of the Japanese occupation, Kim’s parents flee back and forth between North and South Korea —Father’s family background—Mother’s family background—Kim’s father dies when Kim is twelve years old—Places the Kim family took refuge during the Korean War—Mother supports the family through a number of jobs and businesses—Kim attends elementary school in Seoul, where he stays with his father—Weekends at home with his mother—His relationship with his father—His early interest and strength in singing and music—Kim’s early exposure to Korean and Western music—Religious background of Kim’s family—Seoul during the years he attended school there—First encounters with foreigners as a youth—Anti-North Korean propaganda in school—On a full scholarship, Kim is trained in Korean traditional music and dance and Western classical music—Testing required to be accepted into the school—The school’s curriculum—School life after Kim’s father died—He excels as a dancer at his school—He chooses to concentrate on playing the kayagum—Non-musical subjects that Kim enjoyed as a student—Relationship with older brother—The low status of artists playing traditional music in South Korea during the sixties—Reasons many students left school before finishing—Kim's school’s history and student body—Changes in South Korea during the Park Chung-hee revolution—The basic philosophical foundation the school provided its students—After a few years, the school begins accepting girls as students of traditional Korean music—Kim’s mentor and father figure—Mentor introduces Korean folk music and dance into the school’s curriculum—Kim attends Seoul National University as a composition and theory major—In accordance with the university’s mandate, Kim studies cello and piano along with the rest of his music studies—His response to the increased popularity of Western pop music in Seoul at the time—Enlists in the Korean army and enters the university’s reserve officer training program—When Kim graduates from the university with a degree in music theory, his desire is to continue his music studies in the United States—The death of his mother—Upon being released from army duty near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Kim secures some teaching positions—He is hired as music director for the Little Angels performance group, which sends him to the U.S. on tour—Kim's relative isolation during his stint in the army during the late sixties.